Israel is jeopardising chances of peace in the Middle East by announcing plans to build more than 300 new houses in east Jerusalem, Christian Aid has said.
The Israeli government announced on Tuesday it had invited bids to build the homes in Har Homa, south of Jerusalem.
This undermines commitments made between Israel and the Palestinians at the Annapolis peace summit last week, said William Bell, Christian Aid’s Middle East expert.
"We are shocked by this latest action just days after the summit. By its actions Israel is jeopardising the very peace process it says it is committed to," Mr Bell said.
The two sides had agreed at the summit to reinvigorate the US-backed ‘roadmap’. Phase I of the roadmap calls on Israel to ‘freeze all settlement activity’ and immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since 2001.
UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced last week that the parties had ‘committed themselves to implementing their respective obligations under the roadmap… that means an end to settlement construction.’
Mr Bell added: "In light of the Foreign Secretary’s recognition of a need for progress on the ground, rather than verbal platitudes, how will the UK government respond to this latest illegal settlement construction?"
Israel considers Har Homa to be part of greater Jerusalem and Israeli officials have said the roadmap, as far as Israel is concerned, ‘does not apply to Jerusalem.’ However Har Homa is illegally built on land Israel occupied in 1967.
The Foreign Office’s position is that ‘settlement activity around east Jerusalem, and throughout the West Bank, threatens the territorial contiguity of any future Palestinian state, and is an obstacle to peace.’
In order for Israelis and Palestinians to believe peace is possible they must both honour their commitments. Along with Israel ending settlement construction there must also be an immediate end to all Palestinian militant rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into towns of southern Israel.